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'To Dance' - NYCB pick-up group


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#1 GWTW

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Posted 15 September 2010 - 12:23 AM

A group of NYCB dancers are visiting Israel towards the end of October. :clapping: The programme, titled 'To Dance', will be Apollo, Tchaikovsky PdD, a duet from Known by Heart (Tharp) and Shanti (Tom Gold). Merrill Ashley is accompanying the group to give master classes, etc. Guggenheim Works & Processes seems to be involved in promoting the tour.
Can anyone guestimate who the dancers are likely to be?

#2 ViolinConcerto

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Posted 21 September 2010 - 06:48 PM

I can't answer that, but it's very interesting that they chose the name, "To Dance," as the name of their group. That is the title of the autobiography of Valery Panov, who fled the Soviet Union and (I am not sure, but may have touched down in the US) settled in Israel.

#3 GWTW

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Posted 23 October 2010 - 12:25 AM

I saw the second of three performances this group gave - and it was a wonderful evening!
All the ballets were new to me, and the highlight was the first ballet on the bill, Apollo. I expected to enjoy it (just because I love Balanchine), but I really had no idlea what an experience it would be. Has such a Classical, un-Romantic ballet ever been choreographed? A man and three women on stage, the women compete for the man's favour - and yet they are not human and don't have human emotions and clearly are not competing for love or sex or anything remotely like that. The stylised movement was beautiful, evocative of both Ancient Greek art and Art Deco.
Tyler Angle was a very beautiful Apollo, although I didn't see any particular development in his characterisation during the ballet. He was god-like and peremptory from the beginning. Very much in love (or in awe) with himself. Of course, he had no choice but to be impressed with Maria Kowroski's Terpsichore - because she was AMAZING (I'm beginning to run out of superlatives). Her physical attributes together with her warm, mature stage presence create the perfect muse. I don't know which of Amanda Hankes and Rebecca Krohn danced Calliope and Ployhymnia. They were both good, although the Ployhymnia had a problem holding her finger to her mouth during the solo, but they couldn't help but be overshadowed by Kowroski.
Immediately after came Tchaikovsky PdD danced by Sterling Hyltin and Stephen Hanna. The audience loved it, but for me it was too lightweight coming immediately after Apollo - a shame there wasn't an interval between. Hyltin was enchanting - couldn't believe her hops backwards in arabesque, her leg didn't move up or down - she just glows. Hanna was less impressive - according to the program he's a 'former principal' and it shows. He could do everything, but he just didn't seem to have the technical definition and finish or the spark that Hyltin had. Hyltin was having a Bad Hair Day though. Her hairstyle was a bee-hive-y updo instead of the bun or twist that the other ladies did and it looked like some of the front hair came out while she was doing one of the turning sequences towards the end, and she stumbled; She wasn't ruffled at all.* The stage at the Suzanne Dellal Center was much too small for these dancers, and both during some of Hanna's solo and at the end with the go-for-broke flying leaps, I wasn't sure that they weren't going to fall off the stage, or at the least, end up in the wings.

After interval, came dessert: First, a duet by Twyla Tharp called Known by Heart "Junk". I'm not sure whether the full ballet is "Known by Heart" or "Junk". This was a sweet, sassy, and funny duet for Tom Gold and Abi Stafford. He also looks like a "former soloist". This duet looked like a ballet version of a Jennifer Wiener novel or one of the other better chick-lit writer - nice but short Jewish boy (wearing very unflattering black vest and pleather pants. Gold looked much better in the costume for his own ballet) falls for clued-in city girl (in red dress and point shoes, no tights). City girl isn't sure but eventually teaches him that dancing as equals is better than pretending he's some kind of knight-protector. The dancers were terrific and played their parts very well.
The final ballet of the evening was Tom Gold's ballet "Shanti". In my opinion (and my husband's) this was the weakest ballet of the evening, but the rest of the audience disagreed. It's a little party piece bringing everyone on stage with New Age music and orientalist / faux-Indian arm movements, more or less like the things my daughter is learning in the Folk Dances Around The World enrichment class at her kindergarten. Notwithstanding, it was an opportunity to show off the dancers and bring them all on stage. I especially liked the sections for the 4 soloists: Hankes, Krohn, Likolani Brown and Gretchen Smith - there was something more organic and less show-off about their sections.

* In Shanti, Hyltin just had a ponytail instead of a bun.

#4 GWTW

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Posted 23 October 2010 - 12:40 AM

I see that I wrote so much about the performance, that I'll add very briefly that the following day, I went to a talk Merril Ashley gave on dancing for Balanchine. The talk was partially a shill for her book, "Dancing For Balanchine" - and I, like many other people, were persuaded to buy her book after the talk... However, it really was a fascinating talk on how she started dancing, where she learned, how she learned and from whom she learned, relationships with other dancers (she still holds a grudge against Linda Merril :P ), etc.
She showed quite long clips from Ballo della Regina, Act II PdD from Midsummer Night's Dream and Who Cares?
After the talk, Ashley took questions and she was very generous in allowing many questions. Some of them she was fully prepared for, such as my question as to the Balanchine Trust's policy towards posting of Blanchine works on the internet and to another lady's question regarding the difference between Balanchine's NYCB and Martins' NYCB, and gave pat answers. She gave lengthier answers to the technical questions - like the ones on spotting, bent knees on pointe - and she was utterly floored when one of the youngest members of the audience asked her about the padding she used in her shoes for the hops on pointe in Ballo...

#5 ViolinConcerto

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Posted 24 October 2010 - 10:41 AM

Thanks so much for the report GWTW! From my point of view you're spot on with your evaluations of the dancers, though Tom had been very strong technically. I saw his piece, "Shanti" at the Miller Theater in NYC a couple of years ago and really enjoyed his use of Asian postures and movements (which I love and wish they were used more often). Was there any indication of the link of the name of the group, To Dance with the book by Panov?

#6 GWTW

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Posted 24 October 2010 - 11:59 AM

There wasn't any indication as to how the name 'To Dance' was decided. The program states that this visit was a co-production between the Suzanne Dellal Dance Center in Tel Aviv and the Works & Process series at the Guggenheim. Is the dance portion of Works & Process called 'To Dance'?

#7 jsmu

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Posted 24 October 2010 - 03:28 PM

GWTW, what were Ashley's lengthy answers to the 'technical' questions--
and what did she say, if anything, when 'floored' by the question about
the hops in Ballo and padding in shoes?

#8 ViolinConcerto

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Posted 24 October 2010 - 03:42 PM

There wasn't any indication as to how the name 'To Dance' was decided. The program states that this visit was a co-production between the Suzanne Dellal Dance Center in Tel Aviv and the Works & Process series at the Guggenheim. Is the dance portion of Works & Process called 'To Dance'?


Not in my experience.

#9 GWTW

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Posted 25 October 2010 - 12:04 AM

jsmu, I didn't take any notes and it's been many years since I've taken ballet class, but the Q&As that I particularly remember were:

- a question about heels being off the floor in plie. Ashley said that this was often misunderstood. Balanchine trained his dancers to have their weight on the balls of the feet and also to have the whole foot on the floor in plie. However, since his choreography was often very fast, there is no time to go down into a complete plie. According to Ashley, if you're well trained and your balance is forward, this shouldn't cause any injury to the tendons.

- a question about spotting. The questioner noted that even in diagonales, Ashley (in the clips she showed) was spotting to the front and not in the direction she was going. Ashley answered that this was on purpose - part of the choreography. She noticed that when she coached dancers (presumably unused to Balanchine) this was particularly difficult for them, even though in her experience the difficult part had actually been to keep her body facing front when moving in a diagonal (i.e. Balanchine wanted the pique turns to start and end facing front even when moving in diagonal because that's a more aesthetic look) - and not the focus of the spot per se.

- Once she understood the point shoe question, she laughed and said "Not much padding at all". She said her big toe was a lot longer than the other toes, so she put a little lambswool on top of the big toe and then more lambswool over the others to try to get to a more uniform length.

Hopefully, I haven't mangled her answers...


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